Panthers launch comeback to bury Blacktown

The Canterbury Cup Panthers came from behind to defeat Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 28-16 at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.

After trailing 16-6 with 20 minutes remaining, the Panthers scored three quickfire tries to hit the lead, before Matheson Johns wrapped up the comeback with a try on the fulltime siren.

Adam Fearnley came from the bench to inspire the comeback, assisting two tries, while winger Allan Fitzgibbon was rewarded for his strong outing with a double.

Jed Cartwright and Dean Blore both made their returns from shoulder injuries, while Sam McKendry continued his comeback with a solid showing in the middle.

Blacktown got off to a blistering start, scoring two early tries to race out to a 10-0 lead inside ten minutes.

Halfback Kamren Cryer scored a lucky opener after his own grubber took a few wicked deflections, but there was nothing lucky about the second try. A Jade Anderson line break left the Panthers short of numbers, and a shift of hands put Dane Aukafolau over in the corner.

Meanwhile, the Panthers wasted back-to-back chances to score.

Centre Brayden McGrady had Stephen Crichton unmarked on his outside in the 15th minute, but his pass to the winger went into touch. Shortly after, Kurt Falls’ grubber to the in-goal was too deep for Billy Burns to reel in.

Falls made up for his mistake in the 19th minute, setting up a try for Fitzgibbon. He slipped into open space and sent a cut-out pass to the speedy winger, who raced away untouched. Falls stepped up to convert as well, making it 10-6.

Billy Burns broke the line to put the Panthers back on the attack in the 27th minute and Falls again looked to link up with Fitzgibbon. However, Blacktown cleaned up the five-eighth’s dangerous kick to defuse the situation.

The Panthers had a chance to equalise before the break when McGrady picked up a loose ball and pinned the ears back, but the Blacktown defence closed in on him and forced a mistake.

HALF-TIME: BLACKTOWN WORKERS 10 – PANTHERS 6

The Panthers again came out of the sheds a bit sluggish, as Blacktown scored in the 46th minute through Zach Dockar-Clay’s solo effort. Cryer converted to push the Panthers behind 16-6.

For a long period of the second half the Panthers looked down and out, before three tries in the space of 10 minutes saw Penrith hit an unlikely lead.

After Caleb Aekins unleashed Fitzgibbon from inside his own in goal, the Panthers spread the ball to the right. Hame Sele produced a great offload for Billy Burns to break into space, and the second rower found Reed Izzard in support. Falls added the extras to make it 16-12 with 19 minutes to play.

The Panthers equalised in the 65th minute when Fearnley broke into the backfield and threw a long pass to McGrady, who dived over in the corner.

Falls came up with a clutch play to convert from the sideline, sending the Panthers ahead 18-16.

Fearnley was involved as the Panthers pushed further ahead, threading the ball between two Blacktown defenders and into the lap of Fitzgibbon on the wing. Falls’ unsuccessful conversion attempt meant the difference remained six points with 10 minutes to play.

Blacktown pushed the Panthers until the final second, when Nick Lui-Toso put on a big hit to force a knock on. Johns picked up the scraps and dashed away to score and cap off an impressive comeback victory by the Panthers.

FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 28 – BLACKTOWN WORKERS 16